Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fishing Report 6/14

Fly Fishing Report Brought To You By Our Missoula Fly Fishing Guides And Fly Shop Staff.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot river is starting to fish better by day. The upper stretches are still fishing the best with Salmonflies, Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies, PMD’s and Green drakes.
We still haven’t seen good numbers of bigger bugs on the middle and lower river yet. The Clarity is decent on the middle and upper and the nymphing and streamer fishing is picking up.
We’ll keep you posted on the rest of the river as it shapes up. Until then, focus your time on the upper reaches.


Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips for each hatch

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot river has continued to produce some great fishing days. Salmonflies have been hatching throughout the entire length of the river, although the bottom stretches are turning over to more Golden Stones.
This weekends weather is calling for more clouds and rain than sun, so have your Green Drake patterns ready to throw.
While fish on the Blackfoot will still eat the Salmon and Golden throughout the cold snap, the Green Drake fishing can be great up there in the clouds.
The streamer fishing should also be fantastic on the Blackfoot during the this cold front.
They’re calling for a lot of snow in the mountains coming, along with rain in the lower elevations. We’ll see how this affects the flow after this weekend.

Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork river has started to produce some good dry fly fishing over the last week. Be ready for some great Green Drake hatches coming with the cloudy weather. While the Salmonfly and Golden Stones get the most attention this time of year, The Green Drake dry fly fishing can be as good or better than the stoneflies, especially during the cloudy weather.
We’ve been seeing Salmonflies, Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies, PMD’s and Green Drakes over the last week.
Like the rest of our rivers, keep streamers in mind on these colder days coming, they can be incredibly affective this time of year during the darker days.


Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Rock Creek

Rock Creek fishing continued to be great dry fly fishing with Salmonflies, Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies and Green Drakes. The Salmon Flies are thickest on the upper stretches while the Golden Stones are dominating the lower stretches. Plenty of Golden stones on the upper stretches as well. Keep some Green Drakes handy for this weekend during the cold snap.
We’ll see what happens with the forecast as lots of snow is expected in the high elevation. We could see a bump in flows after the rain and snow this weekend.
We’ll keep you posted.

Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

June/July Hatches

Click any photo below to find out more information on each individual hatch. Includes life cycle, best fly patterns, helpful tips and where to find these hatches in your Western Montana fly fishing adventure.

Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fishing Report 6/10

Fly Fishing Report Brought To You By Our Missoula Fly Fishing Guides And Fly Shop Staff.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot river is slowly coming into play. More so on the upper stretches and in to the West and East Fork with Salmonflies, Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies in the sun and Green Drakes in the Clouds. The middle and lower stretches have seen some Goldens, Yellow Sallies and Green drakes, but the water is still moving quickly and we haven’t seen a lot of bugs hatching yet. This should change soon with the flows coming down and water temps rising.
Be prepared with Golden Stone, Yellow Sallies and Green Drake dries on the mainstem in the coming weeks. For now, be prepared to throw more nymphs and streamers than dries until the bugs show up.


Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips for each hatch

Blackfoot River

The Blackfoot river has has been good over the last few days with lots of Salmonflies and Golden Stones hatching throughout the river. The dry fly fishing has been good and should just get better. We’ve been throwing single dries throughout the day, but don’t hesitate to throw on a dropper during slow periods of the day.
We have also had some really good streamer days with brighter color streamers in the sun. With the water temperatures right now, you can use a fairly fast retrieve tight to the bank and swinging through the run.
Be prepared with Salmonfly dries and Golden Stones in the coming week.
The Blackfoot is pretty hard to beat right now for dry fly fishing, but to be honest all of the rivers and tributaries are coming into shape and should fish good from here on out.

Check out this link here for some great tips on fishing the Salmonfly hatch

Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork river clarity has improved a lot over the last few days and fishing is starting to improve. We’ve been seeing a few Salmonflies, Goldens, Sallies and Green drakes popping, and that should continue in the coming weeks.
We’ve been having better luck on the dropper game lately, so don’t hesitate to put on a big Salmon or Golden dry and drop a nymph off the back.
Streamer fishing has been consistent and it’s the time of year to pull some really big fish out on streamers with heavier sink tips.
We’ll keep you posted as the hatches continue to improve.


Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Rock Creek

Rock Creek fishing been awesome over the last week and no signs of slowing down. The Salmonfly hatch is thickest on the middle to upper sections with less of them on the lower, but still some and the fish are still eating them well on the lower end. As the Salmonfly hatch progresses upstream, the Goldens follow, so be ready to fish Golden Stone dries if you’re not seeing many adult Salmonflies around. If the clouds come, have some Green Drake dries ready to throw.
There typically is no reason to throw anything but dry flies this time on Rock Creek.

Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

June/July Hatches

Click any photo below to find out more information on each individual hatch. Includes life cycle, best fly patterns, helpful tips and where to find these hatches in your Western Montana fly fishing adventure.

Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fishing Report 5/19

The fishing in May on our major rivers is usually a wash in May forcing us to lakes and smaller streams, but this year is a little different. With a cooler than normal spring and first few weeks of May, the water hasn’t come up as drastically as past years, which is creating some good windows of fishing on the Bitterroot, Blackfoot, Clark Fork and Rock Creek.

While the fishing has been decent, safety is the biggest concern.

The water is running fast and you really need to be careful of where you decide to wade in if you do. In most cases, it’s best to keep your feet dry and fish from bank as most of the fish will be holding close to the bank in soft water anyways.

In other news, All tributaries are now open as of Saturday May 18 and are all good options to fish right now. Smaller water is obviously less dangerous than bigger water. AND the fish in the tributaries haven’t seen a fly in months.

We have already seen a few Salmonflies kicking around during the recent warm spell that didn’t last long.

Yes we’ve seen them, no you should not focus on them as a consistent dry fly yet.

Salmonfly madness will be here soon, and probably sooner than expected depending on water temperatures, so keep an eye out for our next fishing report!

Focus your time on nymphing and streamer fishing on the soft edges and any slower holding water where the fish will stack up during these flows.

As the water temperatures warm up, be ready for Salmonflies, Golden Stones, Yellow Sallies and Green Drakes starting to hatch.

Good luck wherever you decide to go and as always, stay safe and don’t hesitate to stop in or call the shop for any advice.

Fall Fly Fishing Clark Fork River

Choosing The Best Fly Rod

I’ve been selling fly rods since 1985. I’ve made a lot of mistakes over that time period. Here’s what I think I’ve learned about helping anglers choose the best fly rod for their casting style.

My opinion doesn’t mean a @#?*>^%$ thing when it comes to your rod choice. I like the rods I like because of the way I cast.

I’ve been teaching fly casting since 1988. Unless your body shape resembles mine (and all gods help you if it does), I’ve learned your cast won’t look the same as mine, no matter how long you practice. The cast works around your body. It’s like batting stances. All those different stances made it to the majors. Batting stances follow fundamental tenets, but vary all over the map, and they’re all pros. Like a batting stance, casting is based around your body’s strengths and weaknesses, which might not be the same as mine.

My casting style comes from body shape, strengths and weaknesses, and practice. It’s not yours, it’s mine. Yours can come close, but won’t be exact. That’s important to know when you go to choose the best fly rod for your casting style.

That’s why my opinion doesn’t mean a thing. Unless you cast the way I do, my rod choices may not be yours.

If you go somewhere to buy a rod and they don’t have try lines, meaning you can’t cast the rod before you buy it, go somewhere where they will let you cast the rod.

I’ve seen it all. How anglers try to figure out how a rod will cast without casting it. Oscillations per minute under pressure. Got that one from Ted Williams. Pressing the rod against the ceiling and judging from the resistance how it will cast. Same as pressing it against the floor. The violent wiggle. The gentle wiggle. The intensely scrutinized, synchronized with the elbow and wrist wiggle. None of it means a damn thing. You have no idea how that rod will cast till you put a line on it. Don’t buy a rod without casting it or there’s no way you’ll get a fly rod that fits.

Never listen to the salesperson if they give you casting advice when buying a fly rod. Yes, the salesperson is trying to help. Yes, what the salesperson says is very likely useful AT THAT MOMENT, but how much are you going to actually retain, how much will you change?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been guilty of this. Wanting to help, but really causing more problems. Adding my 2 cents as the customer strays further and further away from choosing the best fly rod for their casting style..

When I teach casting, I have a method and style I ascribe to. If I’m blabbing about it while you’re test casting a rod, it might mean you have issues with your casting. Or, I may have cast the rod you’re looking at and thrown it 90 feet, and you want to know how I did that. Answer to that- I practiced. But whatever I say, whatever I show you, is going to alter your cast at the moment, very likely into a casting style I favor, which will lead you to buy a rod in the casting style I favor. Which may not be your style in the real world. It’s not my rod, it’s your rod. Don’t change your casting style when buying a rod.

If, after you’ve made your rod choice, you ask for advice, I’ll gladly give it. Having seen your style and what you chose for a rod, I’ll give the best advice I can. But not until you’ve made a decision.

So, what do you look for when buying a fly rod? What’s the most important thing to watch to get a fly rod that fits?

THE BACK CAST. SAY IT AGAIN, THE BACK CAST

When I’m selling a rod, the only thing I look at is the back cast. I do that because I know the last time the buyer looked at their back cast was the last time they practiced casting.

When was the last time you practiced casting?

That’s what I thought.

If you’re buying a rod and know enough to cast and compare, then you’re at least an intermediate caster. This is my definition of an intermediate caster. The front cast is basically functional to good, but the back cast looks like the Shadow Casting poster, with swirls of line in all sorts of shapes and designs.

Basically, the back cast is no damn good. And a good back cast is the foundation for a good cast. But people find ways to make that silliness behind them work. If the front cast is landing OK, then it’s all good.

When a potential buyer is comparing rods, I don’t watch the cast, I watch the back cast. Which rod provides the caster with the best shaped back cast? The front is going to be OK- that’s the definition of an intermediate caster. Which rod throws the most natural back cast, which forms the best loop. That’s the rod to choose, the fly rod that casts best on the back cast.

It’s this simple. Since most casters don’t pay attention to their back cast, the rod that throws the best back cast is the rod that naturally fits the casters stroke. I don’t care how far the rod throws, I don’t care which rod the caster prefers, I watch the back cast and recommend the rod that throws the best back cast. That’s the key to getting the best fly rod for your casting style.

That’s the secret. The cats out of the bag. Now, how does a rod shopper avoid the Hawthorne Effect?

That’s also a simple fix. Stretch a little line out, and cast a bit further, or try to cast a shorter……….

Wait, are you wondering what the Hawthorne Effect is? It’s the effect the observer has on the observed. Because now the caster knows their back cast is being analyzed, they will try and change it.

Here’s something else I’ve learned. The lack of attention by most anglers on the back cast has ingrained some pretty interesting habits. Most casters couldn’t break those dubious habits for a $1000 bet. (I’ve done enough teaching to be comfortable in that statement!) All I have to do is change the casting from something comfortable, where a caster can focus on their back cast (Hawthorne Effect) to an uncomfortable cast. So I ask the test caster to add some line, or shorten the line, or turn and cast into the wind. I make them do something a bit uncomfortable.

Boom!

The back cast is right back to where it was when you started casting and didn’t know I was watching. Change focus, add difficulty, and the habits come back. Hawthorne is alleviated!

Test casters look at me, staring behind them, and wonder what I’m doing. I’m watching the part they’re not, and making my assessment. While I have a vested interest in the customer buying a fly rod from me, I don’t have a vested interest in what rod it is. Whether I like it or not is completely irrelevant. It’s not my rod. I’m looking for the rod that fits the casting style of the person casting.

The back cast tells me which rod that is.

Use Technology To Boost Your Casting

As an aside, when the concept of a video camera was new I was teaching casting in New Hampshire. We rented a VCR camera for the Intermediate class, and taped the students. Every single student, over the course of the 3 years we ran the class, was stunned at how crappy their back cast was. How close it came to the ground, how mis-shapen it was, how slowly it moved. Every single student. They didn’t choose the best fly rod for their casting style.

It’s tough to make something good happen in front when you have dog poo behind you.

However, you can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s a problem. So get your phone out and have someone video your cast. What’s your final goal? If you were being videoed from just above your head, a watcher couldn’t tell which direction you were casting. Another way to say it- the back cast is a mirror image of the front cast. Click here to find out how to set up the perfect practice area.

When I get a customer whose back cast is a mirror image of the front cast, I just shut up and get different rods as they ask. Or if I see something in their cast, I may recommend a rod they hadn’t thought of. But when the back cast matches the front cast, I don’t really do all that much other than string up rods.

Who knew, when buying a fly rod, that the most important thing to look for is the one thing most anglers pay no attention to. It took a long time to figure

this out, and I stand by this method of rod assessment. It makes for happy customers; it makes it easy to choose the best fly rod for YOUR casting style.

Missoula Fly Fishing Report

Missoula Fly Fishing Report 4/20

Fly Fishing Report Brought To You By Our Missoula Fly Fishing Guides And Fly Shop Staff.

Enjoy and Good Luck!

Bitterroot River

The Bitterroot river has come back into good fishing conditions with dropping water levels and warmer temperatures. Overall the fishing this spring has been great on the Bitterroot river, although there has been better windows than others with the fluctuating flows and water temperatures.
It looks like the weather will stay decent for the next few weeks and that should keep the flows somewhat stable and fishable.
There are still some Skwala’s kicking around and the March Brown fishing in the clouds has been spectacular. We’ve also seen a good amount of BWO’s in the clouds as well.


Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips for each hatch

Blackfoot River

Fishing on the Blackfoot river took a bit of a hit with the rising flows and cold water temps over the last week. We’re still seeing decent streamer and nymph fishing even through the cold temps and rising water. There has been a decent window of dry fly fishing in the afternoon with March Browns, BWO’s and Nemouras. But those windows are short lived.
Focus your time on inside seems with deep nymph rigs and slowly retrieved streamers.

Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork river fishing, like the other rivers in the area, has seen up and down fishing over the last few weeks with the rising flows and cool temps. The fishing has been good when conditions are good with Skwala’s, March Browns and BWO’s. It looks like the weather forecast will help and give us some better conditions for the next week or two.
This should be a great week to go fish the Clark Fork river with flows trending down and water clarity improving every day.

Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Rock Creek

Rock Creek fishing remained decent even through the rising water and colder water temps. The fishing should keep getting better for the next few weeks if the weather forecast holds true.
We’ve been seeing decent numbers of Skwala’s, March Browns and BWO’s hatching on rock creek and we expect that to continue for the near future.
Streamer fishing and nymphing will be your most effective strategy for numbers, but the dry fly fishing has been good in the afternoons.

Scroll to the bottom of this page for additional fly patterns and tips!

Spring Hatches

Click any photo below to find out more information on each individual hatch. Includes life cycle, best fly patterns, helpful tips and where to find these hatches in your Western Montana fly fishing adventure.

Olive CDC Caddis

How To Use CDC Flies

CDC is used in some of our favorite flies, as pictured above. The Last Chance Cripple, Rastaman Stonefly and Hi-Viz Spinner all utilize CDC, and are amongst our best fish takers. CDC’s unique properties adds an almost irreproducible fish attraction. Yet we hesitate to recommend these flies. If an angler doesn’t know how to use CDC flies, their effectiveness can be ruined before the first cast. This sounds odd, but CDC’s performance can be eliminated with floatant.

CDC stands for Cul De Canard, which freely translates to duck’s bottom. CDC feathers are found surrounding a duck’s (or goose’s) preen gland. The preen gland secretes an oil waterfowl use to waterproof their feathers. CDC feathers evolved to maintain shape when the oil is secreted, which preserves insulative properties without “waterlogging”.

As the photo shows, CDC is fluffy. Like all feathers, CDC has a stem with barbs coming off the stem. What makes CDC unique is the barbs extending from the stem also have barbs, and depending on the size, those barbs have barbs as well. When used in a fly, all those little tendrils trap air bubbles.

Why CDC Works

When Gary LaFontaine researched his books, he didn’t rely on empirical evidence. He donned a scuba tank, and went subsurface to watch the naturals and his flies. In his seminal work, Caddisflies, LaFontaine studied emerging caddis pupa. Caddis pupa fill their exoskeleton with gas bubbles, which floats the pupa to the surface when emerging. The bubbles refract light, making the pupa look like a tiny, glowing ball during emergence. To mimic that characteristic, Gary pioneered the use of Antron. Antron is a trilobal material (Antron fibers are extruded in a triangular shape) working as a prism, refracting light just as the natural pupa refracts light via gas bubbles.

Gary didn’t just see caddis pupa. He also observed when insect wings are flush to the surface (such as spinners, cripples, drowned stoneflies and caddis), air bubbles are trapped under the wings. Light refracts through the trapped air bubbles just as in the caddis pupa, creating the distinctive light pattern. A spent wing, whether a spinner or a cripple, telegraphs to the trout, here’s an insect trapped in the surface film and unable to escape.

When a dry CDC feather contacts water, the microfibers trap air bubbles, refracting light like a natural. The critical point is the feather must be dry. This is where CDC becomes a bit tricky to use. When many anglers “gink” their fly, they use enough floatant to drown any dry, especially in hot weather when gel floatants liquify.

How To Properly Dress a CDC Dry Fly

CDC feathers will matt (absorb enough water to lose their shape), if enough liquid is applied. Despite CDC feather evolution, enough moisture drowns the feather. Using too much gink matts the fibers and you can’t get it out, ruining the fly for the moment. The fly isn’t permanently ruined-washing with soap and water restores the CDC to it’s fuzzy original shape. Water also soak CDC feathers over time, but it evaporates- more on that later.

After the initial floatant is applied, CDC feathers should look exactly the same as they did before floatant application. Fly-Agra and High N Dry’s Liquid Floatant are great for CDC. A quick dip, and then false cast the excess off. CDC feathers don’t benefit from pre-dipping in liquid floatants- the micro fibers retain too much floatant, and won’t hold air bubbles. Liquid floatants must be cast off. Loon Lochsa is a gel-style floatant designed for CDC use, and won’t matt the feathers when applied properly. It has the added benefit of working on standard dries, so while a bit more expensive, Lochsa replaces the gink bottle. One less thing to carry, which is a good thing.

Floatants are a relatively modern invention, and anglers LOVE them! Missoula’s best fly fishing guides carry 3-4 different floatants, each having a specific purpose and usage. Anglers getting into CDC, as well as many others, buy Lochsa and continue to carry Gink. Embarrassingly, a quick survey of this blog writers flotant pocket showed Fly-Agra, Gink, Umpqua’s EZ Dry, Lochsa and two bottles of Frog’s Fanny.

When using CDC flies, you want a desiccant style floatant, like Frog’s Fanny, Shimizaki or High N Dry Powdered Floatant. No matter how well CDC feathers are initially treated, during use CDC absorbs water and soaks down to nothing. This nullifies CDC’s ability to hold air bubbles, which is why we use it. The best way to resuscitate matted CDC feathers are desiccants. Dessicants bring CDC back to life. Prior to desiccants, old school anglers carried amadou or a small chamois. If those are not available, at worst you just blow on the fly till the CDC fluffs back up. Yes, this blog writer has done that. Damn near hyperventilated in the middle of the hatch, when I HAD THE FLY. I hope everyone has that feeling at least once- to be in the right place at the right time with the right fly. It’s indescribable.

That fly was a Last Chance Cripple, a go-to for many of the best fly fishing guides in Missoula, and across the Rocky Mountains. Developed on the Henry’s Fork by the Harrop family, the Last Chance Cripple combines CDC with the classic Quigley cripple shape to take the fussiest trout. Big trout focus on cripples. Cripples often have a wing trapped in the water. The wing traps air bubbles, refracting light. Exactly like the air bubbles trapped in CDC. To this blog writer, that makes CDC worth learning how to use.

It’s a fussy feather. You need to recognize flies with CDC, so it’s treated correctly. CDC is found in many more flies than mentioned here. You’ll end up with multiple floatants to coat and then rejuvenate the feathers. CDC takes more on water maintenance, and maybe a more organized way to carry your flies! Segregation has bad connotations, but it may apply to CDC flies.

Sub-Surface CDC

With the advent of the Tungsten Jig style flies, CDC is being used in new ways. Because the fibers are easily torn, and look good after they’re shortened, CDC feathers are being used to collar many jig nymphs, like the Duracell, the Umpqua PT Jig, the Tungsten Yellow Spot Jig and many others. With only 1-2 wraps, the fibers don’t trap enough air to hinder sinking when first tied on, and once saturated, the CDC works like any soft hackle.

This is where CDC knowledge comes in handy. When a CDC hackled nymph is initially tied on, the fibers hold air bubbles, which is realistic to the trout. The collar adds attraction till saturated, then it only provides motion. The crafty nympher casts his Perdigon 3-4 times, and then uses a desiccant to dry the fibers. It now holds air bubbles again, and returns to being an attractor and advantage. Make sure to use the wand on the desiccant cap to dust the CDC hackle only. (blatant sales pitch for Frog’s Fanny and Dry Dust). Applying floatant to the nymph body inhibits sink rate.

Do anglers do this all the time? No, not really. Most of the time, it’s not necessary. But there are days when you need every advantage you can find just to get a trout to open its mouth. That’s when knowing about CDC wet fly hackle can be utilized to your advantage. It’s like all knowledge- it doesn’t have to be used all the time, but good to have. Knowledge is power- it’s why we write these blogs!

Direct Hype for Frog’s Fanny

This blog writer, and some of Missoula’s fly fishing guides, favor Frog’s Fanny as their desiccant. Too many fish have been hooked on the first cast after applying Frog’s Fanny to be ignored, both dry and nymph. It brings feathers, especially CDC, back to life after saturation, and adds a little sparkle. It’s no knock on the other desiccants- they do exactly as advertised and remove the moisture. Frog’s Fanny seems to have a little bit extra going for it. It’s an opinion, but it’s backed up by lots of empirical evidence … and no hard facts! Take it for what it’s worth.

Once you recognize and know how to use CDC on the water, it becomes a staple in your fly box. CDC’s fish attraction far outweighs the fussiness of the feather. It’s why the Harrop’s use it on the Henry’s Fork, one of the world’s most demanding rivers. It moves fish- easy ones and difficult ones. Once you understand the care and feeding of CDC, you’ll wonder why it took so long to start using it.